This week I had the pleasure of listening to a friend’s garage band play live at a bar. I’m no expert, but I found them to be pretty delightful.

After their performance, we hung out backstage (I felt special). After the round of congratulations and high fives, we sat down to nibble on some food.

“Did you see them? The freeloaders with their recorders. Why won’t they just buy a f* CD?”

Recorders? I didn’t even notice.

After a moment, I chuckled by myself. Like, come on guys…maybe the two people with recorders. And worse, the sound quality is probably terrible.

This got me thinking. Should artists be protective of their art? Or is art meant to be shared freely with the world? I was torn.

Google For Gaga

Being an artist myself, I produce photographs [and literature for people to read]. So, I am adamant about having my credit cited if it’s used commercially.

What if it was for personal usages? Like a client using it on his / her Facebook page?

Recently, Lady Gaga teamed up with Google Chrome to produce the video below. Throughout the commercial, you will see that many “monsters” (Gaga followers) created their own video clips using Gaga’s music.

Shouldn’t Lady Gaga (Mother Monster) be angry?

On the contrary, she’s thrilled! No, she did not tell me, but it’s part of her movement. She empowers people.


Gaga followers are enthusiastic about making music videos with their Mother Monster’s art. At the same time, they have the hope that Mother would see it and maybe even use it. And even if Mother doesn’t use it, oh well.

They felt empowered – by the music, by the words, by being #BornThisWay, by simply being part of the Gaga movement.

gaga guitar


By allowing the usage of art, or codes, SmugMug (just like Lady Gaga) has created an ecosystem. SmugMug not only hosts images, they host websites.


“What do you do with the excess customization business?” I asked Markham Bennett (VP of BizDev).

“We gladly send out the jobs to freelancers,” he smiled.


SmugMug does not charge the freelancers commission or expect handouts. SmugMug gladly gives away jobs, so that freelancers could make money. This creates…


These freelancers become SmugMug advocates. When photographers ask which photo hosting site they prefer, you can make an educated guess what their answers will be.

Old Spice Guy

We all know “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like…” Isaiah Mustafa has become the face of Old Spice.

Recently, I met the writers for Old Spice at a SXSW panel talk. On the panel, to my surprise, was Mike Relm. He is known to do mash-ups with video and sound – very talented. He did one for Old Spice.

You would think…OMG Relm is infringing on words, video, sound, everything! In fact, Old Spice embraced him.


Relm’s video has been viewed over 1 million times. That’s really cool. And that’s a lot of free…

Free Advertising

This was all free advertising for Old Spice. I asked Relm after the panel how he got invited to such a prestigious panel.

“They just emailed me.”

I just had to ask, “Did they pay you to do this or was all on your own? Did they get angry or were they happy?”

“I did it on my own because I love the guy (Isaiah). He’s hilarious! Old Spice never complained. The fact that I’m here is probably good proof that they loved the videos.”

They empowered him…going back to reason one. If Old Spice ever reprimanded Relm, I bet all of the competing deodorizing companies would seek his expertise. At least, that’s what I would have done if CMO.

Life as a Photographer

Our art is valuable…to us. I get it. And I completely agree that credit should be cited when due if used for commercial purposes.

So, what’s our biggest fear? That no one would know that we shot it…or more importantly, that no one would know who to hire?

If one of your clients gets lots of praise for an image, you don’t think that they’d be more than happy to tell them who shot it? It empowers them because in that very situation, they know something that their peers did not know.

It’s just like when a friend asks you how to use a camera. I get all giddy having the opportunity to help.

I’m not saying not to tag your images on the bottom. But if they crop it…OH…WELL. That’s just my take. And you can disagree.

Art is meant to be shared to make the world a better place. I don’t want to sound all hippie, but I truly believe in that.

Your Thoughts?

Do you agree with what I said? Let me know your thoughts via comments.

If you found this article interesting, I thank you for sharing it via Facebook and Twitter buttons below 🙂


Lawrence Chan


gaga paw

I shake with excitement every time I watch that Gaga Chrome video. Maybe it’s because I’ve been an underdog all of my life, I feel like she’s personally telling me that it’s okay to be me.

I was #BornThisWay, so paws up!

P.P.S. Hangover 2 comes out tomorrow!! Go Wolf Pack!

P.P.P.S. I think there’s a big confusion in the comments. Let me clarify my position.

I think it’s important to have a logo to brand yourself at the bottom of your images. I do not, however, condone watermarks that go over images. I think that’s just distasteful. And I’m not saying that you need to agree with me 🙂